About a year after the couple began seeing each other, Juan Pablo struck up a friendship with José Basulto, president of Brothers to the Rescue. Soon Juan Pablo was flying search-and-rescue missions with the pilots. When Juan Pablo's older brother escaped Cuba by raft, Basulto mobilized the planes to search for him. They were too late. The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted Juan Pablo's sibling and sent him back to the island.

To help Juan Pablo earn a living, Basulto and some of his friends hired him as a personal trainer. The ex-MiG pilot was a voracious gym rat, according to his ex-wife and Basulto. "I welcomed him like he was my brother," Basulto says, adding that Juan Pablo always talked about marrying Ana Margarita. "I believed he was in love with her. But he was really fortifying his cover." (In 1999, a federal grand jury indicted Juan Pablo and four other members of the Wasp Network, a Cuban spy ring, for conspiracy to commit murder in the shooting down of the two Brothers to the Rescue planes.)

Juan Pablo and Ana Margarita would wed April 1, 1995. The irony of the date is something she can lightly joke about now. "At the time, though, he gave me a sense of security," she says. "He gave me stability."

Lawyer Ira Kurzban says direct flights from the United States to Cuba would end if Ana Margarita prevails.
C. Stiles
Lawyer Ira Kurzban says direct flights from the United States to Cuba would end if Ana Margarita prevails.

Like many Cuban exiles, Ana Margarita's life had been one of upheaval. She was born in 1960, one year after Castro's revolution shook the hemisphere. Her mother separated from her father when Ana Margarita was only a year old, and the two went it alone. To provide a home for herself and her daughter, Antonia worked the front desk of Cuba's telephone company in Havana. She resigned in 1964, and two years later — when Ana Margarita was 6 — defected to New York City. In 1967, Antonia moved to a townhouse in West New York, New Jersey, and worked a grueling factory job. "We lived pretty close to her school," Antonia says. "And the police officers in the community were pretty vigilant, so I didn't have to worry about Ana Margarita walking to and from school alone."

Ana Margarita was a quiet, studious girl from the time she attended elementary school until she graduated from high school in 1978, Antonia says. "She wasn't a party girl," she adds. "She would come home after school, do her homework, and practice her flute." From the ages of 8 to 10, Ana Margarita, along with her mother (who had since remarried and had another child), her grandmother, her stepdad, and her half-brother, would go on camping trips to the Catskill Mountains. "She loved walking along and fishing in the streams," Antonia says. "It was a very peaceful time for her then."

Antonia remembers buying a teenage Ana Margarita a blue Mustang as a surprise gift. "On Sundays, she would take her Mustang into the city to visit her grandmother," Antonia happily recalls. "That is where she learned to drive so crazy. You don't ever want to get into a car with Ana Margarita."

During adolescence, Ana Margarita rekindled her relationship with her father and visited him in Miami. In 1979, she moved to the Magic City for good. "I wanted to start my own life," she says. "I married my first love, a boy I had met when I was 14 years old." She was 19 when she got hitched. But the relationship didn't last long. They divorced in 1982. That year, while visiting her mother in New Jersey, Ana Margarita met her second husband and the father of her two children, Jalal Kasso. The relationship lasted seven years. "He was great until I married him," she says. "He became very possessive, and he abused me emotionally and physically."

The final straw came when he pinned her against a wall. "My son got between us, and he shoved Omar down," Ana Margarita says. "That was the end of that marriage." In 1989, she divorced him. "He has never seen the kids since," she notes. "And he probably owes me close to $90,000 in child support."

Ana Margarita says she worked two or three jobs to keep a roof over their heads. She had no social life. Her distrust in men solidified; she didn't date for several years.

So when she married Juan Pablo in 1995, it was a major step. For once she seemed part of a happy family. Sasha, who was 9 when her mother began dating Juan Pablo, says he was a wonderful surrogate father. "He always said he wanted to adopt my brother and I," Sasha recollects. "He wanted to make it official that we were his kids."

Now 24 years old and with fair skin just like her mom's, Sasha says her mother fell apart after learning about Juan Pablo's secret life. "She wasn't the same," Sasha says. "She didn't want to believe he was a spy even though it was on the news all the time. I couldn't understand how someone could be so cruel to us."

"Up until recently, Ana Margarita was still in pretty bad shape," Antonia adds. "She has been to a lot of therapists. There were times I would never leave her alone after what happened with Juan Pablo."

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These comments are a little off base.  First, U.S. trade history with Cuba needs to be understood.  There has been a restrictive trade embargo against Cuba since 1960 and was actually codified into law in 1992.  The U.S. has long accused Cuba and Castro of human rights violations and other crimes - hence the embargo.  Prior to this woman's husband, the U.S. already accused Cuba of being 6 to 7 million dollars in default to America.  Even today, Americans can only travel to Cuba under certain circumstances such as a reporter for a specific instance or education.  


The embargoes and trade restrictions already implement strict regulations and decrease of trade between the country.  Further, because the U.S. says Cuba owes them 6 to 7 million dollars, all transactions with the government or corporations can only be done in cash, no credit is extended.  

When this woman was awarded her judgment (which I believe was reduced) it was awarded under 1996 anti-terrorist laws which allowed private law suits against terrorists supported by a country.  It is a very common legal theory.  Look at Enron.  If a corporation tell an employee to commit a crime, the corporation is also liable.  Same with the government.  If the chief of police tells an officer to murder random people, then the city can be liable. The money was awarded to this woman with full knowledge she would never actually see it.  


This was a way to punish the Cuban government - who revered Juan Pablo as a hero - for committing a terrorist act on American soil.  Since Juan Pablo could not be extradited, this was a creative solution. She received $194,000 from a frozen account.  Why was this account frozen?  Was it found to be supporting terrorist activity in America?  Why did the Cuban government have $194,000 in an account that the U.S. could freeze and ultimately seize?  Even in America, accounts can't be seized without cause.  


Finally, I question the validity of the fact that private Corporations are being targeted to pay of the Cuban government's debt.  This would be outside the purview of the judgment and the reach of the law.  The only way these entities would be garnished would be if the Cuban government ultimately controlled it.  


So, for those arguing that trade is being affected by this judgment, I ask how?  There is already a long standing embargo.  There is already bad blood, claims of debt owed, and refusal to extend credit.  The whole point of an embargo is to adversely affect the trade and economic growth of a country.  Not to mention the Helms-Burton act that further restricts American Corporations from doing business in Cuba.


Was this woman "awarded" a windfall? Yes.  That's also why it was reduced to 7million.  Will she ever see this money?  No.  The Courts were sending a warning, precedence, stating that if you commit or support you citizens in committing either espionage or a terrorist act on our territory, the spy will not be the only one punished, but we will hit you where it counts - in the wallet.  The Courts saw this as an opportunity to give anti-terrorist laws "teeth" without having to invade a country.  What do you do to a country that wont extradite a criminal, encourages his espionage and murder?  If we invaded every country that did this . . .well, the was a reason why the sun never set on the British empire.  There is also a reason the Brits couldn't hold all that land.  In retrospect of the Iraqi/afghani/iranian/Bush's war, this method seems to make a lot more sense.  No ones sons or daughters, husbands or wives have to die to prove a point/strength this way.


with all this said, I truly believe the embargo has caused more damaged that solutions.  I think its antiquated regulation implemented in the days of the bay of pigs and the cold war.  We over tax trade, force embargoes etc. as punishment for human rights violations.  We restrict travel so our citizens cannot unwittingly boost the economy.  Hell, even the EU has passed a law making the Helms-Burton act illegal. However, saying this woman is crazy, greedy, or affecting trade is short sighted.  This woman was a tool for the Courts to make their statements.  Nothing more.  I'm guessing the majority of that $194,000 went to attorneys fees anyway.  The judges published opinion would not so heavily investigate the legality of the reach of the 1996 anti-terrorist law and later amendments so thoroughly if it wasn't trying to make a point and set precedence.  The judgment also doesn't mention that the ex-wife's initial cause of action was rape and sexual assault.  Because that not important.  Giving teeth to the law is what mattered.  As stated before, the woman was just a tool.

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